Saturday, 7 June 2014

Punk's Not Dead, a rebuttal to Bill Drummond

Being up to date on everything musical I recently caught this video from Bull Drummond, first posted in February, 2013.


Whilst I have nothing but respect for Mr Drummond, along with all of his assorted works of art, and I cannot discount his own personal experience, for it was his to have, his proclamation does about how Punk was dead before it even started does eark me for a variety of reasons. And whilst I appreciate that I'm saying this in the position of being a 30 something middle-class muso punk fan who never wore a spiked mohawk or who smashed the system I thought I would try and put the earking into words, because his comments encapsulate a lot of what I've been feeling about the constant proclamation that "Punk Is Dead".

Punk didn't start in 1977, and it most certainly didn't start in Liverpool or even the UK. The first track ever described as Punk was "96 tears", performed by ? & The Mysterians in 1966, over in America. The term was used to describe a visceral type of Garage Rock which can trace it's line back to bands like The Sonics, The Stooges, The Pink Fairies and a hundred other bands who harked back to the original fires of pre-bobbysock and bubblegum Rock and Roll. The UK in 1976-1977 wasn't ground zero for a new movement, it was the latest part of a saga that had been blazing away for over a decade. Given the folly of youth it may have felt like the start of something totally new, and it clearly had its own take on it, but it's pedigree was clear for all to see.

Never Mind The Bollocks may well have been overhyped, and it may not have been the ultimate punk album of all time, but it was hardly the pinnacle of punk. The Saints, The Damned, The Angelic Upstarts and countless others had already got albums out, far more filled with invention and revolution than the Sex Pistols offering. The Pistols, by the time of that release, were poster boys for an idealized scene that their masterful manager had invented. To have everything hinge on that one album was to believe the hype, it was to buy into the very pop myth that punk was working against. What else do you expect to happen but disappointment when you willfully back the wrong horse?

Regardless of the music there was a revolution happening, it was just more of action than of tunes. The DIY ethic, in the publication and distribution of records, magazines, and all other forms of art, did kick off in the UK with the movement known as Punk in the late 70's. Or, at the very least, it stepped up a gear and broke people out of the "you have to wait for someone else to give you permission/publish your work" mindset that had befallen the British youth scene since the 50's. It blasted away the idea of signing to a record label of 20 years before it and it blasted away the idea that you had to be rich to get your work made by yourself of 10 years before that. It also laid down a network and an approach that stormed through the 70, into the 80's and beyond. It was also the groundwork of the very music scene that Bill Drummond made it big in with The TimeLords, The KLF, and all his other works.

Punk is "a genre waiting to be aped by generations to come" (Paul McCartney once said "The Sex Pistols were just another band playing Chuck Berry". All forms of music are, as "It is each generations duty to invent sex, drugs, and rock & roll". Everything has been done before, but each time it has been done differently. You could hardly compare something like The Victims to X-Ray Specs to Black Flag to NOFX to My Chemical Romance and say 'oh, they sound the same', yet all are indisputably punk. Just look at what was happening at the same time in the same country with Two-Tone or Psychobilly. Even "I feel love" by Donner Summer fits into the mix of it all, as it was both an attempt to shift copy and a rebel yell from an outsider scene.

Now I wasn't there, and so most of my knowings are based on reading, watching and listening to relics of the era, so if you want to dismiss all of the above as invalid due to me not having been in the trenches at the time then feel free to do so. But all I know for sure is that it's a genre and a movement that has put a fire in my belly, a bounce in my step, and a direction to my purpose, and I'm feed up with the old timers dismissing it and declaring it dead so readily. Because it started before you and its not going to finish till way after me, so you have no right to call it dead. Your revolution didn't happen, just like it didn't for the hippies, but excuse me whilst my generation finishes having a stab at it and it fully passes on to the next to give it another go.
Post a Comment